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April 04, 2010

Bill Clinton Causes, Feels Your Pain

By: John Caruso

Here's Bill Clinton last month, apologizing for his obliteration-by-trade-policy of Haiti's rice farming base:

Since 1981, the United States has followed a policy, until the last year or so when we started rethinking it, that we rich countries that produce a lot of food should sell it to poor countries and relieve them of the burden of producing their own food, so, thank goodness, they can leap directly into the industrial era. It has not worked. It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake. It was a mistake that I was a party to. I am not pointing the finger at anybody. I did that. I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did. Nobody else.

Yes, what a crushing burden it is to have a livelihood that feeds you, your family, and the people around you.  How noble of Clinton to have wanted to free Haitians from this terrible responsibility!  And the benefits to heavily-subsidized US agricultural exporters were no doubt just a fortunate and entirely unintended side effect.  Win-win!  Except in this case it was, you know, win-die.  But you can't make an omelet, right?

Of course this isn't the first time Clinton has apologized from the bottom of his heart to black people whose lives he's helped destroy:

On March 25, 1998, then President Clinton visited Rwanda years after more than 800,000 people died in a genocidal civil war and said, "The international community must bear its share of responsibility for this tragedy." He continued, "All over the world there were people like me sitting in offices who did not fully appreciate the depth and the speed with which you were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror."

Only the most cynical among us could fail to be moved by this obviously sincere mea culpa.  Well, the most cynical, and those who remember inconvenient facts like these:

President Bill Clinton's administration knew Rwanda was being engulfed by genocide in April 1994 but buried the information to justify its inaction, according to classified documents made available for the first time.

Senior officials privately used the word genocide within 16 days of the start of the killings, but chose not to do so publicly because the president had already decided not to intervene.

Intelligence reports obtained using the US Freedom of Information Act show the cabinet and almost certainly the president had been told of a planned "final solution to eliminate all Tutsis" before the slaughter reached its peak.

It took Hutu death squads three months from April 6 to murder an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus and at each stage accurate, detailed reports were reaching Washington's top policymakers.

The documents undermine claims by Mr Clinton and his senior officials that they did not fully appreciate the scale and speed of the killings. 

(In fact the Clinton administration studiously avoided calling what was happening in Rwanda "genocide", since it would have compelled them to act, opting instead for the more circumspect "acts of genocide":

Secretary of State Warren Christopher, an accomplished lawyer, instructed his staff to avoid calling the situation in Rwanda genocide, but merely to say that "acts of genocide may have been committed." Ambassador Rawson went one better: "As a responsible government, you don't just go round hollering 'genocide.' You say that acts of genocide may have occurred and they need to be investigated."

Strangely, though, Clinton's administration wasn't nearly so shy about invoking the useful specter of genocide to describe the relatively low level of killing in the civil war in Kosovo in 1999, when it could be used to drum up support for a military attack intended to establish NATO's "credibility" as a vehicle for US force projection outside of the United Nations, among other similarly lofty goals.)

All of which is just a major digression from my main point, which is that Bill Clinton is an odious, lying scumbag whose carefully calculated apologies aren't worth the precious air he steals from the rest of us in order to utter them.

— John Caruso

ADDED BY JON: "There Is No End To Bill Clinton's Hilarious Scumbaggery"

Posted at April 4, 2010 09:26 PM

Actually, the U.S. was involved in Rwanda quite a bit:

Posted by: Jenny at April 4, 2010 09:40 PM

Turning on C Span the other night, there Bill was, testifying before something called the Global Health Initiative, which I guess will bring Codex to everyone, forced vaccinations to everyone, statins that cause many users to develop ALS, and on and on.

And part of that initiative is coupled with something called the Global Food distribution Initiative, which is probably something that Monster Monsanto has brought forth.

Yippee! For Bill. And Yippee! for Globalization!

Posted by: Elise Mattu at April 4, 2010 10:02 PM

I don't like Clinton either, but I just can't quite let myself feel that he is stealing precious air from the rest of us.


Of course the U.S. was "involved" in Rwanda in a broader sense. I took the ever-understated Mr. Caruso to merely mean that Clinton knew damn well genocide was happening and wasn't going to try to stop it, which would have dragged him into the domain of foreign policy, which he was trying hard to avoid at that time. Plus, speaking candidly about the genocide in Rwanda might have put Clinton in an even more uncomfortable tension with the military, because he would have had to make a humanitarian issue a military priority, which they generally don't like in the Pentagon no matter what you might see on TV. If a humanitarian issue is trumpeted, that's most for propaganda reasons, not because that's really what's driving the policy.

The US mililtary's support for the Tutsi rebels but ambivalence about the slaughter of the Tutsi minority reminds me of WWII and the Holocaust. Then too the military prioritized military goals and impeded humanitarian goals. And in both instances the obstinate refusal to pursue humanitarian goals extended to actions that didn't even interfere with military objectives, which strikes me as perverse. I mean, why not save some lives if you're already on the side of the victims anyway? I really don't understand the reluctance, but our foreign policy policymakers seem to frown on the idea of helping the victims of real genocide. Maybe they just think they'll get drawn too far into a conflict and get stuck with commitments they don't want. Or maybe the reasons are uglier.

Posted by: N E at April 5, 2010 12:32 AM

Bill Clinton the compassionate conservative who governed in between the compassinate conservatives George Bush and George Bush. Celebrate diveristy!

Posted by: cemmcs at April 5, 2010 09:23 AM

Of course he is an odious, lying scumbag. How else could one explain his love affair with another odious, lying scumbag like Bush? When Obama is done betraying every principle he once held, he will be a welcome addition to the contemporary Three Stooges act as they traipse across the globe doing God's goodly good works things. Huh.

Posted by: Jesus B Ochoa at April 5, 2010 09:26 AM

Wow. I was going to post a snarky comment about how we have to understand that Bill Clinton has no power, there's nothing he can do, it's everybody else's fault, and besides he would be assassinated. But N E beat me to it, without the snark.

Maybe speaking about Rwanda at the time might (notice the "might") "have put Clinton in an even more uncomfortable tension with the military, because he would have had to make a humanitarian issue a military priority," but he lied about it then, he's lied about it since, and he's lying about it now, but I guess telling the truth would put him in an even more uncomfortable tension with somebody or other. (Why, I wonder, do you never extend this compassion to Republicans, though it surely applies to them just as much?)

And it's worth pointing out again what John alread did, that Clinton was happy to cast Kosovo as a humanitarian issue; for some reason that didn't put him into conflict with the military. That's the trouble with your response, N E: as usual, you simply ignore what John is saying and just trot out the Democratic apologetics.

Posted by: Duncan at April 5, 2010 11:23 AM


I doubt Bill Clinton would like my "apologetics" for him too much, since I said that a) of course he knew genocide was going on; b) he was basically too self-interested to make a stink about it, since that would have interfered with his "agenda" and made a little political trouble for him. Sorry that I confused you by noting the presence of other bad guys, the ones you're flip about and whom you seem oh so reluctant to acknowledge. I view calling politicians scumbags as about the same as sports-fan behavior: Fun but meaningless.

On your other point, you might ponder sometime why Bill Clinton didn't have the troubles Gary Hart did BEFORE he got to be President. Roger Morris, who has a real first-hand understanding of our crummy government, wrote insightfully of that in his book on the Clintons. And he mentioned it in an article or two as well. Bill and Hillary have known how to get ahead for a long time. I regret that I didn't read what Morris wrote when he wrote it, or have the savvy to anticipate the very bad developments of the 90s, which in my view were very deceptive because they introduced new evils while celebrating the apparent defeat of old evils.

Mr. Caruso had a good point about Kosovo, but you are mistaken if you hold the view that the US military didn't want NATO expansion into the Balkans and Kosovo in particular (which you seem to me to be suggesting). The end of the Cold War created an immediate and serious crisis for NATO, which some crazy "peace dividend" types thought should perhaps cease to exist when its reason for being ceased to exist. If NATO were to continue, it needed a new role, and it needed it fast. This was actually discussed and debated and print if you're interested. The new role was not defensive, of course, and whaddayaknow, now NATO, on the heels of its Balkan training, is waging war in Afghanistan, the key to Central Asia (which was another much-debated opportunity). I wish I and a few million other people had read and thought about what the military and diplomats were up to at the time too, and maybe we could have headed some of this trouble off at the pass.

Then again, if we can't ever get past calling people scumbags and leaving it at that, that's probably a futile wish.

Posted by: N E at April 5, 2010 12:29 PM

for a simple six-fig speakers' fee, he'll even say it hurts him more than it hurt you.

Posted by: hapa at April 5, 2010 12:54 PM

grammar self-edit: speaking fee, ok. speaker's fee, ok. speakers' fee, no, that is un-ok.

Posted by: hapa at April 5, 2010 12:57 PM

Jesus B Ochoa - "When Obama is done betraying every principle he once held"

Wait, Obama once had principle? Because other than neoliberalism and corporatism, I don't believe there's any indication that that's true (beyond his self-serving statements and his branding operation).

And, of course, Obama will be part of the act, who do you think decided Clinton and W. were the perfect pair to send to Haiti in the first place?

Posted by: BDBlue at April 5, 2010 04:15 PM

Quite apart from the support the US was giving to SOA grad Kagame, it's a myth to refer to Clinton's position over Rwanda as "inaction". The US (and France) acted forcefully to stymie a UN solution, either to protect the RPF sweep or because the Americans didn't want the UN acting militarily when the US couldn't (because Clinton sure as hell wasn't going to risk another fiasco like Somalia).

It's not "indifference" when you assiduously work to stop the UN forces, already on the ground, acting to prevent a genocide.

Posted by: Weaver at April 5, 2010 08:49 PM